Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, has been granted an English aristocratic title which secured his resignation as a Member of Parliament from Westminster, David Cameron told the Commons today.
The declaration by the Prime Minister that Gerry Adams had become Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead means that the by-election in West Belfast can now go ahead.
However the Sinn Fein leader has said that the prime minister had misrepresented his position, and he has strongly denied requesting the title.
Under parliamentary rules, MPs must apply for the obscure crown office if they intend to resign.
Adams has said he only sent a letter of resignation to the Commons Speaker, John Bercow.
In a statement released by Gerry Adams he said: "Mr Cameron has claimed that 'the Honorable Member for West Belfast has accepted an office for profit under the crown'. This is untrue. I simply resigned. I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system.
"Mr Cameron's announcement that I have become Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, wherever that is, is a bizarre development. I am sure the burghers of that manor are as bemused as me. I have spoken to the prime minister's private secretary today and he has apologized for today's events.
"While I respect the right of British parliamentarians to have their own protocols and systems, no matter how odd these may appear to the rest of the world in general and Irish people in particular, the prime minister should not make claims which are untrue and inaccurate."
Last November Adams announced his intention to run for Sinn Fein in the Louth constituency in the forthcoming Irish General Election. He informed supporters that another Sinn Fein candidate should stand for his West Belfast seat.
Confirmation of Adam’s new title was revealed during prime ministers question time.
Nigel Dodds, the Democratic Unionist party MP criticized Adams when he addressed Cameron: "You may be aware that one of the members elected to this house has decided to emigrate – and you may want to chalk that up as one of your achievements.
"The said member for West Belfast, Gerry Adams, seems to be embarrassed about applying for an office under the crown, an office for profit – although he has shown no such embarrassment of profiting from his office in this house for many years at taxpayers' expense.
"When will you deliver on your pre-election pledge to hardpressed taxpayers that you will abolish parliamentary money for parliamentary purposes going to those who do not fulfil their parliamentary duties?"
To which the prime minister replied: "First of all, just in case people haven't caught up with the news, you are quite right that the honourable member for West Belfast has accepted an office for profit under the crown, which of course is the only way you can retire from this house.
"I'm not sure that Gerry Adams will be delighted to be a baron of the manor of Northstead. But nonetheless I'm pleased that tradition has been maintained.
"In my view, what we should be aiming for is for all members who are elected to take their seats in this house. That is what should happen."
Sinn Fein MPs have always refused to take an oath of allegiance to the crown and to take a seat in Westminister.
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